Once he told his White House bosses he would walk in front of a sniper before he talked. But yesterday, when he finally did get around to talking, the only unfriendly fire G. Gordon Liddy encountered was an apple pie in the face.
Liddy, who was released Wednesday from federal prison after serving 52 1/2 months for his part in engineering the Watergate break-in, summoned reporters to the Mayflower Hotel in listen to him speak not about Watergate, but about wrongdoing he encountered in the prison system.
"I live in the present and the future, not in the past," said Liddy, 46, sidestepping most of the inquiries about Watergate.
But the pie-throwing incident made it clear that Liddy is not a man who forgets easily. When Aron Kay, a member of the Youth International - or Yippie - party, tossed the small pie in Liddy's face the former Watergate conspirator wiped away the remains and said, without cracking a smile, "I was wondering when we'd hear from Judge Sirica and apparently we have."
U.S. Judge John J. Sirica imposed the stiff sentence of up to 20 years and a $40,000 fine on Liddy for his Watergate activity. Sirica later added another 18 months to the sentence after Liddy refused to discuss Watergate before a federal grand jury.
Liddy appeared yesterday flanked by his five children and his wife, Frances. He was wearing a suit of clothes and a pair of shoes he said he was given along with $40 when he was released from federal prison in Danbury, Conn.
Despite his part in the events that ultimately took the presidency from Richard Nixon, Liddy insisted he still would be willing to do the bidding asked of him by any U.S. President.
"When the prince approaches his lieutenant, the proper response of the lieutenant to the prince is 'Fiat voluntas tua,'" said Liddy. He later spelled out the Latin to bewildered reporters, and translated it as "thy will be done."
Liddy said he would have no comment on Nixon or the former President's statement during a television interview with David Frost. During one interview Nixon called those involved in the Watergate break-in "a little nuts."
"I just leave the actions of others to be judged by the public," Liddy said.
In an interview yesterday with ABC news correspondent Barbara Walters, Liddy elaborated slightly on his Watergate role, saying that taking blame for the Watergate break-in in 1972 delayed things substantially."
"The prince," said Liddy, apparently referring to Nixon, " was prince for a longer period of time."
Liddy declined, however, to say whether he had been asked to take the blame by Nixon or whether he spoke with Nixon before going to prison.
Liddy offered praise for two other Watergate figures, John Erlichman and John Mitchell, as "strong." But when reporters added John Dean's name to the list, Liddy paused and then said "Fully qualified to sing the title role in 'Der Rosenkavalier.'"
The title role in the Richard Strauss comic opera is sung by a woman, he later reminded reporters.
Although he told a federal magistrate in Pennsylvania Tuesday that he was legally a pauper - a statement required to remove temporarily the $40,000 fine and allow him out of prison - Liddy said he actually has a number of job offers, including one to work with shopping center developers and another to edit a magazine.
He declined to name the magazine. But Peter L. Maroulis, Liddy's attorney, said he had sold an article written by Liddy to Chic magazine and that Liddy will write a second article for Esquire.
Liddy said he has no plans at present to write a Watergate book although he did not rule out such a project in the future. Right now, he said he is struggling with a novel that he described as "definitely not a roman a clef."
Liddy, who was behind bars longer than any other Watergate figure, said his primary purpose in talking with reporters was to describe what he said was rampant racism within the federal prison camp at Allenwood, Pa., where he spent most of his sentence.
He reiterated charges that have been made earlier by prisoners that five deaths of prisoners in a recent fire at another federal prison at Danbury, Conn., were due to neglect and callousness on the part of prison guards.
"This is the information that the men asked me to bring to you and I hope I have discharged my obligation to my former fellow federal prisoners," Liddy said.